Air Force One
“Theaters are always going to be around, and doing fine. With computers and technology, we’re becoming more and more secluded from each other. And the movie theater is one of the last places where we can still gather and experience something together. I don’t think the desire for that magic will ever go away.” Wolfgang Petersen
German-born director Wolfgang Petersen made a name for himself in Hollywood with such box-office pictures as Shattered (1991, earned a Deauville Film Festival nomination), the thriller Air Force One (1997, a Bambi Award), The Perfect Storm (2000) and the recent release Poseidon (2006). The owner of Red Cliff Production produced the film Red Corner (1997), The Agency (2001) and the short drama Chicxulub (2006).
Formerly, Petersen was handed a German Film’s Award in Gold for the thriller Einer von uns beiden (1974). Still with German movies, the director gained international recognition after making Das Boot (1981), which was nominated for two Oscars, a Directors Guild of America award and a BAFTA Film award, as well as Die Unendliche Geschichte (1984).
On a more private note, he is the father of filmmaker Daniel Petersen from his former marriage with Ursula Sieg (no longer together). Petersen is now married to Maria Borgel-Petersen.
John Ford Fan
Childhood and Family:
On March 14, 1941, Wolfgang Petersen was born in Emden, Lower Saxony, Germany, to an English father and a German mother. Little Wolfgang, who was passionate about all things American, admired John Ford’s films because of their clear presentation of good and evil. Beginning his career as an actor and director in a Hamburg theater during the 1960s, the graduate of the Johanneum School (1953-1960) finally attended the Film and Television Academy in Berlin (1966–1970) before gaining fame as a screen director.
Wolfgang was first married to Ursula Sieg, with whom he has a son, filmmaker Daniel Petersen. After the couple separated in 1978, he married Maria Borgel-Petersen, whom he first met during the shooting of Smog (1973, TV).
After becoming the assistant director at the Ernst Deutsch Theater in Hamburg, Wolfgang Petersen had his first stage-directing attempt in 1961. While studying at a film school, Petersen created the short films Der Eine - der Andere (1967), Die Rote Fahne (1968) and Ich nicht (1969, also wrote).
Petersen’s first feature-length project was Ich werde dich töten, Wolf (1971), which was followed by the TV film Anna und Toto (1972) and the TV sci-fi thriller Smog (1973). Also in 1973, he began directing several episodes of the series “Tatort” (1973-1976), where he first worked with actor Jürgen Prochnow.
A year later, the new director turned heads with his work in the thriller Einer von uns beiden (1974), which was Manfred Purzer’s adaptation of Horst Otto Oskar Bosetzky’s novel. Before long, he was handed a German Film’s award in Gold for Outstanding Individual Achievement (New Director). The thriller was then re-released in 1979 and picked up by Lufthansa airlines, which showed it on cross-Atlantic flights. The victory led to Petersen directing the miniseries “Die Stadt im Tal” (1975), the TV adaptation of Ralph Maloney’s novel Vier gegen die Bank (1976), the controversial drama Die Konsequenz (1977) and the chess championship-set drama Schwarz und weiß wie Tage und Nächte (1978, TV).
Petersen eventually won international acclaim with his screen revival of Lothar G. Buchheim’s novel, Das Boot (1981). The 12 million dollar war drama, which at the time was the most expensive German film ever made, chronicled the journey of a group of German U-Boats crew members in WWII. Soon, Das Boot was nominated for two Oscars (one for Best Director, one for Best Screenplay), a Directors Guild of America award and a BAFTA Film award. After shooting the partially American-financed Die Unendliche Geschichte (1984, earned a Fantasporto’s International Fantasy Film award nomination), the filmmaker created the epic spin-off miniseries “Das Boot” (1985) for German TV.
Petersen, who in 1984 received a Bambi award, marked his American directing debut with the sci-fi drama Enemy Mine (1985), starring Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr. He then moved to California and made the self-produced mystery thriller Shattered (1991), which brought him a nomination for the Critics award from the Deauville Film Festival. He then released his self-produced dramatic thriller In the Line of Fire (1993), featuring Clint Eastwood, as well as the virus attack-themed Outbreak (1995), starring Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo and Morgan Freeman.
The executive producer of Jon Avnet’s Red Corner (1997) gained huge box-office success with the summer thriller Air Force One (1997). Starring Harrison Ford, the movie also reunited Petersen with German actor Jürgen Prochnow, who played General Ivan Radek, and won the director a Bambi award for Direction. Petersen then marched on with the natural disaster-themed The Perfect Storm (2000).
Following his producing effort in The Agency (2001, also the spin-off series, 2001), the director smashed the box-offices again with the colossal movie based on Homer’s poem, Troy (2004). Recently, Petersen helmed the remake movie Poseidon (2006), which centers on a passenger ship capsized by a tidal wave, and served as the executive producer for the short drama Chicxulub (2006).
In 2008, Petersen is scheduled to release the sci-fi action film Ender’s Game, penned by Orson Scott Card (story) and David Benioff (screenplay). The movie will focus on a gifted child’s admission to a military school in space, in order to prepare for a future invasion of alien.